Rohde back in court for alleged murder of wife

Cape Town – Jason Rohde, suspended South African head of the property group Sotheby’s International Realty, is to make his first court appearance since his release on bail last month on Friday.

He is charged with the murder of his wife, Susan Rohde.

Jason Rohde's wife, Susan, was found dead in the couple's hotel room at the Spier Wine Estate. Picture: Jeffrey Abrahams. Credit: INDEPENDENT MEDIA

Susan Rohde was allegedly killed on July 24 in a hotel room at the Spier Wine Estate near Stellenbosch.

The couple lived in Johannesburg, but were in Stellenbosch together for a Sotheby’s International Realty conference.

As with previous court appearances, Friday’s proceedings are to be in the Stellenbosch District Court, before magistrate Greg Jacobs.

On August 30, Rohde was released on bail of R1,1 million – the R100 000 had to be paid immediately, to secure his release from police custody, and the R1 million in the form of a commercial bank guarantee, that had to be lodged with the court administration by no later than Wednesday, September 14.

One of his bail conditions was that he had to stay at an undisclosed address in Melkbosstrand, on the Cape West Coast, and report regularly at the Melkbosstrand police station.

At Friday’s proceedings, Rohde’s defence counsel, Peter Mihalik, is expected to request a change in the bail conditions, to allow him to return to his Johannesburg home to be with his three daughters.

It is not yet known whether the prosecutor, senior State advocate Carien Teunissen, will agree to or oppose the change in Rohde’s bail condition.

In terms of his bail conditions, Rohde has to submit to the supervision of a probation officer, or prison official, while living in Melkbosstrand.

He may not visit any international ports of entry or departure, without prior written approval of the investigating officer, or the prosecutor appointed to deal with the case.

Last month when Rohde appeared in court, the courtroom was jampacked, mainly with reporters and cameramen and women. They had been permitted to take photographs and video footage of Rohde entering the courtroom from the adjoining holding cells.

At those proceedings, the prosecutor told the court that the investigation was almost completed. The prosecutor also confirmed that Rohde had surrendered his travel documents to the investigating officer as ordered by the court.

The State still needed confirmation about Rohde’s financial status, she said.

Mihalik said the defence and State had agreed that the alleged murder was not premeditated, which rendered the bail application a Schedule 5 one, in which it was only necessary for the defence to satisfy the court that Rohde’s release from custody was in the interests of justice.

After the proceedings, defence attorney Tony Mostert said the defence team was concerned about the fairness and legality of the investigations, and police action.

Because of the team’s concerns, the team had initiated an independent expert investigation, to address unsupported allegations that the death was not suicide but murder.

He said Rohde’s arrest at his Bryanston home, and being taken to Stellenbosch, had been traumatic, and “he has inexcusably been put through the trauma of incarceration under dreadful circumstances”.

Mostert said the team was also concerned about unsupported evidence of the alleged murder, and speculation about it in the media, which was recklessly abused to create sensation.

He said conclusions were being drawn by some of the media, before any due process of the law had taken place. The media speculation disregarded the constitutional right that no one is guilty until found to be so by a court of law.

Had certain sectors of the media investigated the veracity of information supplied by “so-called sources”, the more responsible story would have been to highlight that Rohde was respected in his community, “and that a loving father had been wrongly accused of a crime he did not commit”, Mostert said.